Out with Resolutions, in with Done Lists

have done lists

On Saturday, the running shop was mobbed when I went, on a whim, to buy new running shoes.  Nothing says “New Year’s Resolution time”, like a packed out fitness shop.  Wikipedia dates the phenomenon of resolutions back to the Babylonians.  However, the orientation of resolutions has changed over the centuries.  Historical resolutions tended to be things like paying off one’s debts before the turn of the year and re-committing to your religion, your ruler, or your code of conduct (medieval knights swore to be chivalrous for the following year).

Contemporary resolutions tend to be of the self-improvement variety and therefore subscribe fully to the myth of scarcity, the one that tells you that you were not good enough in 2013.  I did not participate in this self-flogging ritual this year.  Instead I marked the transition by looking back on what I’d accomplished in 2013, using Susannah Conway’s Unravelling the Year Ahead Workbook.

New Year’s Resolutions are TO DO lists.  And To Do lists just don’t work.  After tyrannising myself for decades with never shrinking, ever lengthening To Do lists, I stopped cold turkey a few months ago.  Now I only keep lists of what I’ve done.  It’s revolutionised my work life.  At the end of the day I can see that I have in fact done enough, usually more than enough.  Looking back at my “Have Done Lists” gives me a more realistic sense of what my job entails and more achievable expectations of what I can do in a day.

Keeping a Have Done List journal is simple stuff.  Date the page and write down every thing you accomplish, no matter how small.  It helps to mark down what you’ve done just after you’ve done it, pausing to celebrate each accomplishment so that it sinks in.  I like to jazz my lists up using coloured markers and dotting each achievement with a star (who doesn’t like getting a star?)  For the more digitally inclined, Life Hacker suggests apps you can use.

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